· I am not aware that CRFFN has started collecting POF —-NAGAFF President
The Registrar of the Council for the Regulations of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) Barr. Sam Nwakohu has said that payment of the Practitioners Operating Fee (POF) is a condition precedent to cargo exist at the nation’s ports.
Nwakohu was reacting to the recent uproar that greeted the commencement of collection of the POF, informed that the collection is an extant law that must be obeyed stressing that there is need for people to learn how to obey the law.
The Registrar also noted that though some freight forwarders are already complying, while others find it difficult to do so, because they are not registered freight forwarders, and are operating ileegally.
According to him, “It’s the law, the extant rule, the law is very clear on it, payment of POF is a condition precedent to exit of cargoes in the ports, that’s the extant rule as at today, people need to learn how to obey the law”.
“Some of the freight forwarders are already complying, part of the problem is that most of those who are complaining are not even registered freight forwarders, which means they are illegally operating”, he said, even as he added that non-registered freight forwarders can not pay the POF, because the payment is for registered practitioners.
“Non-registered freight forwarders can’t pay POF; even if you want to pay, unless you are a registered freight forwarder. It’s like trying to practice law without going to law school”, he stressed.
“I didn’t make the law myself, these are things that have been handed down to us right from the Federal Executive Council, to the Minister, and it that trickles down to us, so my job is to enforce it and I will do everything within the law to make sure that I enforce it”, he added.
“The CRFFN will continue advocacy to train the freight forwarders and build capacity, we will continue to create awareness; if anybody has difficulty I am willing to help, we have personnel on the field” he said.
Meanwhile the Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA) has urged its members to be law abiding by paying the POF, pending when they engage the authority of CRFFN.
Speaking to our correspondent the National Secretary of the association, Mr. Babatunde Mukaila said that the association will soon engage the Council and will also take a position soon.
“We have heard about the POF, and we are talking to CRFFN on this, we have told our members to be law abiding, you know this issue has been a recurrent decimal, so we are engaging CRFFN to know why they are collecting the POF at this moment and how we can resolve this, we are on top of the situation and we will take a position soon, we have asked our members to comply since it’s a government directive”, he said.
On his part the President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) Chief Increase Uche denied knowledge of the POF collection. “I am not aware of what you are saying, I am not aware that the collection of POF is going on, I am not in the know of that, I am not in Lagos”, he said.
Also speaking to our correspondent Mr. Chidi Anthony Opara, a former member of CRFFN's Freight Forwarders Consultative Forum stated that, POF ought to be paid by importers and exporters and not freight forwarders.
He argued that: “To start with, “POF" means "Practitioners Operating Fees", meaning that the practitioners pay these fees to the body (CRFFN) that regulates their practice (freight forwarding).
“Now, we are hearing of "POF" to be charged on imports and may be exports. These imports and exports are not owned by freight forwarders whom CRFFN regulates. The freight forwarders are only contracted to clear and forward these cargoes. These cargoes are owned by importers and exporters who do not have anything directly to do with CRFFN. So, CRFFN want to collect tax/levy from traders' goods that they do not regulate.
“Freight forwarding practitioners in Nigeria pay annual subscriptions to CRFFN, there is also governmental budgetary allocations, so "POF" collection is not necessary, but if "POF" must be collected, it should be collected on the earnings of the practitioners and not on imports and export”, he stated.
But his position was also faulted by a member of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), who pleaded anonymity.
According to him, Mr Chidi Opara clearly contradicted himself by saying that it is the importer and exporter that ought to pay POF.
“The POF is collected by CRFFN from practitioners who are freight forwarders who engage in the process of moving cargoes out of the ports. The money is not payable by the shipper but by the freight forwarders, who in this case are clearing agents, now called freight forwarders”, he argued.